Flight of Destiny
The body of Amenhotep was to be taken by six priests to the Temple of Osiris. The deceased Pharaoh was carefully placed in the back of a wooden cart, and the priests would be protecting the body both from view and from any possible threats - be they weather or human. They wanted the Pharaoh's death kept quiet for now. In the past it had been known when a Pharaoh died, and people tried to touch the body of the dead Pharaoh, thinking it would bring them the blessings of the gods to have touched one of them.
The cart set off from the palace, and trundled without haste through the crowded, bustling streets, passers-by stopping, wondering who had died. It was not very often that a body was transported with such an escort.
No one in the city seemed to have heard the news yet. No one seemed to realize that they were currently without a monarch - that if an enemy decided to attack; they would be attacking a country that was vulnerable.
Thebes' citizens went about their business after the cart passed, thinking that everything was as it had been for many, many years.
Sutekh had decided that he would use his time in the city of Thebes to shop with Ishza. He wanted to buy her something special, but he knew not what. He did not tell her this, however. He told her that he just needed to get a few things, and that he might get something for his sister. He decided after he said this that it would actually be wise to get something small for his sister, who was yet only fourteen. But what do you buy to please a girl of that age? He had no idea. Ishza would help him here - he was counting on it.
They had seen several stalls, each with unique wares being peddled by merchants. Sutekh lingered at one that was selling Chinese silks, and admired the fabric with his eyes. He dared not touch it, for only the women did that. He would look very strange if he examined its texture.
"Do you want some of these silks, master?" Ishza asked, almost curiously.
"They look nice, aye. What colours do you like?" He was being very careful. If he played his cards right, he could learn much about Ishza today by asking simple questions.
"I like the turquoise, master." She was almost breathless as she took a bolt of the deeply hued fabric, "It is so rich - so - tranquilizing."
Sutekh looked at the fabric closely. Ishza unwrapped a small amount of the glossy fabric and held it out for Sutekh.
"Just feel it, master!" she was clearly excited.
Sutekh looked from side to side before feeling its surface. It was so smooth - he could scarcely believe it. Silk was a wondrous fabric indeed. Sutekh extracted his money bag without even realizing it, and approached the middle-aged merchant. "How much for the bolt?"
The merchant's eyes lit up. Never before had anyone bought a whole bolt before. Silk was so costly that most could scarcely afford a scrap. "Twelve gold pieces." he answered, keeping his tone level, professional.
Ishza whispered to Sutekh. "He is trying to fleece you. That bolt should be no more than nine!" she hissed in his ear.
Sutekh considered the merchant. "Good Merchant, I am but a humble priest of Set. Pray, would you let me have it for ten?" He hoped this would work. Merchants usually gave discounts to priests more than willingly.
The merchant scratched his chin. "A priest?"
Sutekh nodded, "Aye."
"So if I were to give you a discount, I'd be getting the favour of Set?"
"I did not say that, but if you wish, I can pray to him on your behalf."
"My business could use a blessing. You have your discount." The merchant extended his hand, and Sutekh took it. They shook, making their deal a confirmed one.
Money exchanged hands, the bolt was wrapped in burlap, and the High Priest moved on, Ishza's hand in his, the bolt now clutched in his free hand.
They stopped next at not a stall, but at an old man, who'd placed his wares - trinkets of gold, and jewellery - carefully on a blanket he'd spread on the ground.
"Greetings, young ones." The old man said amiably. Sutekh and Ishza were the only ones who seemed to have taken notice of him.
"Greetings, Kind Merchant," Sutekh grinned, "A hard day's wages out here, is it not?"
"Aye. Not many people pay attention to an old goldsmith."
"I think most cannot afford your wares. I must say though, you have quite a few things to catch the eye."
"Thank you, Kind Sir."
Sutekh turned to Ishza. "Why don't you pick something?"
"Are you joking?"
"Not in the least."
Ishza knelt down and examined the pieces. The High Priest must have wanted her to choose something for his sister.
After a few moments' hesitation, she chose a necklace. It had caught her eye, and she could not forsake it. It was a lovely wrought chain, with a small ankh pendant. "This, I think." She said at last, "Master?"
He was also choosing something, a small brooch, a cat, with green eyes of a foreign semi-precious jewel.
Ishza handed the necklace to Sutekh, and Sutekh handed both items to the old man. "We'll have these, Kind Sir."
The old man felt the pieces with his fingers and nodded, "I made these, knowing they'd be for two different women. I know now that I was right."
Ishza furrowed her brow. Two women?
The old man continued, "Young man, I will get you have both of them for a special price."
Sutekh was curious, "Why?"
"Because I know that you are giving these pieces as gifts to two women who are very important to you. I can always tell. What a person buys says a lot about them, though they do not realize it."
Sutekh was uncomfortable. "Alright then. How much?"
"Eighteen gold pieces, sir."
Sutekh was indeed surprised. "Such a low price!"
"I am getting so old; money is of almost no use to me. Just pay me labour costs so I may continue working, and I shall be happy." The old merchant gave the pieces back to Sutekh's care.
"Very well." Sutekh drew out his moneybag, and withdrew the necessary amount of gold. He thought for a second, and took out another two pieces of gold. "A tip, Kind Sir." Sutekh explained.
The old man took it, not wanting to offend Sutekh. "Thank you for taking an interest in my work, sir. Good day."
"Good day." Sutekh nodded. He put the pieces in his pocket, and led Ishza away from the old man and his blanket covered with gold.
"That man made me nervous." Sutekh admitted when he was sure they were out of the old man's earshot.
"Aye, likewise here, master." Ishza was inquisitive, "What did he mean, two women?"
"You will see soon enough, Ishza." Sutekh assured.
Sutekh and Ishza were walking up one of Thebes' main streets. Sutekh saw something - a cart, and six priests sitting in it, three looking out from both sides.
He fought his way through the crowd, leading Ishza with him, until he was in front of the two pale horses that were pulling the cart.
"Stop!" one of the priests cried, "For the love of Ra, stop!"
The cart came to a halt, and Sutekh, leading Ishza, went to the left side to talk to the priest who had told the rider to stop.
"What is it?" The priest of Osiris asked pleasantly.
"I am Sutekh Seth, the new High Priest of Set."
"Oh, aye. Hello, I did not know who you were."
"That's fine. I have only been so for two days. Who has passed?" Sutekh questioned.
The priest of Osiris leaned down to meet Sutekh's ear. He whispered the answer. Sutekh's eyes went wide in a very child-like manner. "Nay!"
The priest of Osiris nodded soberly, "Aye. You may want to visit the Prince soon."
"Aye, I think I better." Sutekh nodded quickly. "I won't keep you any longer. Farewell, Good Priest."
The priest nodded, and Sutekh waved to him as the cart disappeared from view.
"What's the matter?" Ishza asked.
Sutekh kept his voice low. "The Pharaoh - he has passed."
Atemakhu had left, to return to the Temple of Atem-Ra. Akhenaten and Ksunamun were now alone, still in the bedchamber.
"Atemakhu is a good man," Akhenaten said softly, "I can sense that he is to be trusted."
"You need priests you can trust, do you not?"
"Aye. There is nothing worse than not being able to trust people - especially people in high positions."
There was a very long pause. Ksunamun played with little Bastet, who was once again in her lap.
Before long the silence became unbearable to Ksunamun. "What do you really think of this diadem?" She probed.
"I think my father designed it for you, Ksunamun. And I think he did a lovely job, his heart is in it."
Ksunamun was pensive. "This has got to be worth more in gold than all of my old village."
Akhenaten felt entirely playful. "That may be true, but it is still not worth as much as you are."
Ksunamun smiled weakly, not bothering to contradict. She knew now that it would be of no use, and so just kissed Akhenaten on the cheek. "You're a hopeless romantic, you know that?"
"Aye, I'm impossible." He agreed with glee, "Perfectly impossible."
"Ah, my Prince, I wouldn't have you any other way."
When the body of Amenhotep was delivered to the temple, it was taken into a special chamber, where it would be mummified. The Pharaoh's body had to be preserved as well as it could be, for he would need it in the afterlife.
The High Priest had been summoned, along with the Embalmers, and they were already preparing the instruments they would use to remove the sacred organs. The heart alone would be put back, for it housed the soul. The brain was thought useless, and thuse discarded.
The canopic jars were ready, as were the black resins that would be used to preserve Amenhotep's skin.
Amenhotep's body was carefully laid on a stone table, and the High Priest examined it. This was a macabre task, but for the High Priest of Osiris it was the most important of all tasks. He had to do this before the embalmers could begin their work.
Sutekh and Ishza returned to the estate after dusk. Ishza was tired - she had not been able to have a nap, as Sutekh had hoped. He had promised her that he would not ask her to come with him again, but she said she had actually enjoyed the day away from the estate. She had been cooped up for quite a while.
Sutekh took the saddlebags and the blanket from his mare when they were in the stables, and hastily put them aside.
"Let's get back inside then, shall we?" Sutekh was cheerful as he again, took Ishza's hand.
She followed him willingly back into the house, and to his chamber on the second storey.
When they were safely inside, and Sutekh was sure that the other girls of the Harem were nowhere near, he took out the necklace Ishza had chosen. "You asked what the old man meant when he said two women." Sutekh paused, and decided not to mince words. "He was right. This necklace that you chose, I bought it for you to keep."
"I thought that-"
"That it was for my sister? The brooch is for her. I wanted to buy you something, but I did not know what to get. So I allowed you to choose." He paused, "You have very good taste, you know."